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Interview with Virginia Terrell

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Virginia Terrell
Interviewed by: Jackie Kachadourian
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 25 April 2017
Interview Setting: Binghamton, NY

(Start of Interview)

JK: This is Jackie Kachadourian with Binghamton University’s special collection library, Armenian Oral History Project. Today is April twenty-fifth, two-twenty seventeen. Can you please state your name for the record?

VT: My name is Virginia. Last name is Terrell. T, as in Thomas, E-R-R-E-L-L. My maiden name, is a true Armenian name Mangurian which is spelled M-A-N-G-U-R-I-A-N. The daughter of Robert and Marcy Mangurian.

JK: Thank you. And where were you born?

VT: Here in the city of Binghamton, New York at Lourdes Hospital.

JK: And were your parents born in the United States or–

VT: No. My dad was in–oh– Hadjin [Haçin in Turkish], Armenia. And my mo– and he was born in 1905. No, that was my mother, he was 1889, (18)88 or (18)89. Something like that. My mother was born in Izmir, Turkey. And she was born in 1905.

JK: And what were– what was the reasoning for coming to the United States?

VT: Truthfully, I was only eleven years old when my dad died and my brother was only thirteen so I really cannot answer that other than just from what I heard from a couple stories from my mother, okay, after my dad died, okay, that they probably were escaping the genocide. Okay? I mean, that is all I can say, you know? Because, now do you want me to go into the story of the genocide? Okay, how we came–my parents never would talk about it to this day, I never heard my mother talk about my immediate grandparents, my mother’s mother and dad, nothing, not a word. Okay, the same thing with my father other than I–we were able to find out what their names were okay, my dad’s mother was a Sonalian okay, Katherine Sonalian and my–my grandfather, my father’s father was very (indistinct) Armenian, okay and I am sure that is why my brother was named Garry. Later on and my mother only had the one sister, there was just the two of them, but she always talked about her grandmother and she always had the fear of being blind because my grandmother, now I am assuming it was my mother’s, mother’s mother, you know, but do not ask me about her name or anything she would just say she was totally blind and she raised me so I do not know the story behind that, she just would not talk about it. But with my dad when I was born, and I was brought home from Lourdes hospital and I was ba–I am assuming that maybe it was after I was baptized and I was brought home from the hospital and I know I was baptized here locally in the Armenian Church here on Corbett Ave as Repega. Now I do not know how you say that in Armenian to be truthfully I do not know. But I do have the solution that, you know, birth certificates and everything with the Armenian priest that I was bap– I am sure they got re– in fact, I do not know if they have got records of that in the Armenian Church. Ralph had talked about– do they have a record of all the families actually were–

JK: Maybe, I am not sure.

VT: I do not– I have never seen it. So I do not know if they ever tried to keep records to be truthful with you. But I, I apparently was baptized Repega Mangur–Mangurian and my mother always said that this is why I thought I was baptized Virginia– no– you were baptized Rebecca then I found the paper she gave me, okay. She said that when I was brought home my father would hold on to me he would do nothing but cry because he would think about his younger sister you know that was murdered and raped by the Ottoman Turks.

JK: And this is as they were trying to leave?

VT: I am assuming, I do not know when he came to this country I have got to dig out some papers. I got a whole big box that my brother gave me which maybe he had all the records I do not know. Okay. But because I know Gary gave me their– they got married in 1926 with my mother was a fixed marriage in Connecticut. Because how my mother got here is by my uncle in Connecticut went back to Europe to get a wife and I guess it was arranged for him to have the oldest sister, which was my aunt Mary, was eighteen and my mother was sixteen. And – but the only way he could get married was he had to bring my mother. And, so she came over and she lived with them in Connecticut and somehow or other, my Uncle Harry knew about my dad [laughs] because they got married at [inaudible] It was all– you know they were all pre-arranged. Now how they even ended up in Binghamton, my dad was here he was already established so I think in those cases I think the family– they came. In fact we even talked about it now with all this immigration thing. Do you think they came to the United States– we do not know? But you know I think in those days a lot of uh just talking to some other Armenians their names were changed because they did not even know how to spell their last names okay we got my mother’s Dokmejian but we have gotten it spelled two different ways, you know. So, and I am sure you know I, uh, I know I spoke to her family, their, their name I do not want to put it on there because I uh there is [inaudible] her dad and being an ownership but that that that is not an Armenian name so it was, uh, large, uh, longer and they shortened it and oh nobody knows. Yeah, yeah. So, uh, and–and you just assumed it but it has the I-A-N that is definitely an Armenian name. [laughs] [inaudible] But, uh, so that was the story of that but my dad so we just assuming he saw a lot and he fled over here.

JK: And he never said anything.

VT: Never spoke. He never– none of them did. Not one of them. Okay, I do not ever hear them make– you know, talk about it or any– you know. No. You know, I think later in life I think we would have liked to pump I think my brother was [inaudible] very more Armenian than I am to be truth with you, okay. You know because he collected a lot of Armenian things. In fact, he donated a great big Armenian picture it is in the church hall. That frame, I loved the frame more than I liked the picture. Because I do not understand the picture but you know. Oh my brother you know my brother used to be a funny [inaudible] when we were kids, yeah. You know, so you know, later in life you break away from that, you know. And uh, uh, unfortunately, you know, but you know and I am not saying you know down deep in my heart I, I am an Armenian. I mean otherwise I would not even. I, I need to see that early because I wanted, I thought maybe I could get some information about it. Everything I saw there in the books that I read that I got home, well, they are, they are, they are more thorough than the movie. The movie very tried to make it [inaudible] you know, not as bad, but–

JK: –It is harsh.

VT: I, I, I got a little emotional you know because I got thinking did they go through all that, you know, because I remember my mother saying now that started basically in casto [inaudible] in the movie, 1914 for the actual slaughtering of the Armenians was 1915. They did kill some but it did not start in past [inaudible] where they were–

JK: I believe it did, it was how it was depicted in the movie.

VT: Oh.

JK: Oh, but I believe it did. They started killing the, um, the researchers and like doctors and uh intel–more intelligent.

VT: –More intelligent Armenians.

JK: Yeah, and then it started spreading to uh other parts of Turkey and then.

VT: It moved to, to little villages. And actually that is where they start with that young couple, you know.

JK: Is that where your family is– your parents are from little villages?

VT: I am assuming they were little village you know, I do not know how big Izmir was in those days or Hadjin?

JK: So they never talked about how, like growing up as a child or, nothing? Wow.

VT: But they must have known one another because the Kradjians were Hadjinsi, [inaudible] were Hadjinsi–The Rejebians were Hadjinsi, [inaudible]. I do not know if [inaudible] were but Mr.[inaudible] was Hadjinsi. And that is maybe–maybe that is how they moved them here. Leave their, their cities and you know, because my father was a Hadjinsi, okay, and that night I cannot remember what the Kachadourians were. If they were Armenian.

JK: There is Hadjinsi and Kharputian.

VT: Okay, okay.

JK: I ̶ there is two things I do not know.

VT: Now I know Adrian’s mother I found out was from Izmir Turkey. Where my mother was from.

JK: Oh, that is interesting.

VT: Yeah, we found that out later on when I think it was when, well after they were married. Adrian and, and Art. But I guess Adrian brought her mother to Binghamton there later in life. And come to find out okay, now she was like she probably could tell you a lot.

JK: Oh, yeah.

VT: Yeah. But how I found out about my mother is, uh, and I was out of high school, I was working at the bank. I was not working at Links. My first job was in the middle of the teller at our school. And so that has got to be in the (19)50s. And, uh, my brother got married. So it is just me, mom, the house the [inaudible] Street and my mother was taking a bath, you know, and she was very independent, you know, independent and that, that I know that when she was calling me, and she always had the accent, “Jenny”. You know like that. You know, and I went, I said “What is wrong mom?” She said I cannot, my back is itchy at one spot and I cannot seem to get to get the wash cloth on it and I need help. And when I try to move my arms, my arms are aching, okay. So I went in there and I saw the scar just below her shoulder. Okay. And I thought, mom, what did you do? Did you [inaudible], when did you get hurt you know? And she just, you know very nicely. She has told me it is a bombshell. I said is a what? You know. And that was when she told me. She and I said was does in Europe, the Turks. And I saw I said, I do not want to say it too loud. Okay. And she says no. And she told me it was English to British I said the British. What were you– why? She says I was with my grandmother okay. And I was taking care of– because she was totally blind in the cemetery hiding. Okay, but English– she said no– it was not their fault; they were coming to help us. And they were bombing.

JK: This is in Turkey or–

VT: It probably Izmir– I am assuming, I am assuming it would be in Izmir, Turkey. Yeah, Turkey. Right. Yeah. Okay, because that was where she was from. Okay, she, she's never been to Hadjin or anything. She met my father through my uncle Larry. [laughs] So that is how that, you know. And then she told me. You know. And she told oh me before that she, uh, was going to school in Izmir. Okay. And that one morn– I think I told you that, we filmed that– but one morning she got up and she told her grandmother, I do not want to go to school. And she fought and she got whipped. Because grandma got mad at her and said, you are going to go to school and she starts hitting her with–God– I do not know, whatever. You know, and she cried? She said no, no, no, and she just would not go. And I guess that was where she ended up in the cemetery but could not find the school that round. But she did not tell me if it was from–it was war. Because my mother later and he had a family that, well in fact, one son is, uh, is very close friends of Ara Kradjian and Naima. Helped Naima in her election. There was an Arzonian boy that used to live on Jefferson Avenue. And they were very close to my parents– well they were like maybe from here and other half a block away. Okay. And they were great. They had the two sons. And I used to go up there. I was a little pesky neighbor kid. Okay. But they took care of me. I mean they were, you know, fun. Okay. And the youngest son, you know he has been raised up, probably got kids, he is full grown now. But the young fellow, Jack was his name, we used to have a round porch of the [inaudible] Street and he would come down call my mother into everybody comes in an aunt, an uncle, on every spec, right? That was how I was brought up with all the Armenians whether we were related or not. Yeah, you are Auntie George, Auntie Alice, Auntie whatever okay? And, uh, Jack could not wait to get into the service. He went in the Air Force and my mother used to get mad at–“why?”–in her broken English. It is war is hell. No, you do not go. You do not know what it is, it is not all beautiful and all– why do these young men want to go to war? They do not realize. My mother used to say this since she would– saw the fear. Because that is all I got out of– she says they think it is all fun and joy. She says, she says they do not realize and this is what my mother used to say this is– what the United States need is to have a bomb hit here then they will know. It is terrible. They do not, they do not understand how. Yeah, yeah, that was– in her broken way you are trying to explain. Well he got killed. He got killed in another way. [Indistinct] She– they– the Armenians they sold their house they moved. Yeah. So I feel the young boy that is full grown now. He must have gone through hell. This fear– bomb went over there. Some of the other ladies try to go over there to help and she did not like nobody– she just, you know [indistinct].

JK: Yeah.

VT: So I mean, these are memories so terribly horrible. Yeah. Horrible, horrible. So I am, I am sure my parents saw enough but they did not talk about it. Yeah, you know.

JK: It is interesting. Some people are like that they do not talk about it and then others, feel the need to share.

VT: I think now, it is just the advice it gave me on life like, like the piece of release, these things, okay? I was a little surprised. I spoke to Henry about telling the– I had you mixed up you were his daughter, you know that. He went out laughing over, okay. No, that is my granddaughter. You know, you know. And so he was proud that you were doing it. You know, I said well did not she–you probably should be–you know everything Henry of all the family. So you might even know more about my parents that I ever would have known. Yeah. But your parents probably I have known your, your grandparent you know, your mom and dad especially your mom. She– that woman was smart. Yeah, basically, you know, she is the Empire. You know that, right? I will never forget when she passed away. They had a luncheon at the church. And, it was your dad that got up and spoke. I am pretty sure it was, yeah, because your dad, graduated with honors from BU [Binghamton University] too, he was high in his class. I remember going to that graduation because the, um, there was another. This is Josie Philips’ kid that graduated from there. That is why we went because of and, and, and young, uh, your dad was the number one in the class.

JK: Wow.

VT: Okay, I thought, what an honor, you know, and that was how many years ago– oh my God, I was not married then. You know, it has got to be way back in the (19)50s. Right, early (19)50s. No, maybe in the (19)40s. How old is your dad?

JK: Oh, no. My dad was born in 1964.

VT: Oh, (19)64. So I was not– oh I was married then. Okay, okay I am going to study what Phil. Yeah, I got married in (19)67. I would have never got married if I did not meet Phil. Well, then I was responsible for taking care of my mother, you know.

JK: Did going back to there a time in Arme–or Turkey in Armenia. I know, you did not say they did not tell much. But do they speak Armenian growing up–

VT: My, my mother spoke Armenian, Greek, Turkish, French.

JK: Wow and how did she learn all these?

VT: Because she said, you had– because you were surrounded by those people. You know, the population was like that. Okay. Because we have a Greek restaurant, The Olympia, here on Chenango Street. My mother used to take me to the Olympia because she got so– the first time we went there she found out it was a Greek– she did not know you know and we went in there and she got the, you know, and waitresses were our boss. He was, he was Greek so she– he so my mother understood I want to go to the Greek restaurant because I get she was talking to him in Greek. Yeah, yeah. Our foods are very familiar too, you know? Oh Yes. Yes. Now my dad, I could not tell you–the only thing I could tell you about [laughs] my dad was a shoe man he had his own shop there on Main Street. Okay, which everybody knows. But he, he– my dad was very Americanized, too. Okay. But–

JK: After he came–

VT: Yeah, yeah, even when I was a little girl, I used to go with my mother. We would come downtown shopping or something and we always stop at the store, you know, and my dad would always, you know, tease me whatever, you know. Yeah. But my dad was very popular with the police people. Because they used to walk the beat and everything. So my dad always used to call him nothing but eşşek, which is jackass, right? Right?

JK: Yeah.

VT: Okay. Meanwhile, my dad, Mr. R G bought property up by Conklin, by the river, you know, they had their little they, they were in a full cottage they were– I could open type count like the canopy like you know with the picnic tables and you know their crappy was right next to our set and we always have parties like you won't believe like the Armenians whoever they wanted would come up there you know? Yeah, he had that for a long time until after dad died and it got the point Ari and I were getting too big for it, you know? Well I, I got– we used to swim in the river like crazy. That was where I learned how to swim until– the one time when I saw when a garter snake, I mean to me was a snake. I do not care what type it will come out of the water. I remember I would have nothing to do [laughs] with, with the river. I absolutely stayed away from the Susquehanna River. [laughs] Any algae which is just, you know all that. And, uh, what I was leading to– oh god– there was a couple Armenian families on Conklin Avenue too well anyway, that one day it was a Saturday– the Livings [inaudible] went up there for the weekends. Because it was not that far of a ride five, six miles, whatever. Okay. Oh, right here at the library. Right across the street from the library. And here, one of the stores probably were in there– used to be the old Giant market. Okay. And we were coming down Court Street to, to go down to Conklin. Okay. My mother pulled right from the store. Okay, motorcycle cop. We used to have motorcycle cops. Okay. And like I said, I am still eleven, twelve right? It was after my dad died. Okay, so I probably was around twelve or maybe the same year, I do not know. But I was small. My mother says we forgot the bread. Got to get the bread. So she pulled out. My mother had no, no license, no insurance. We found that later in life. She had broken English. Now she became a U.S. citizen. I could– I, I saw her– I, I got her papers I, I am pretty sure they were in that box, I probably should dig them out, maybe the dates would be better. I should have thought of that. I did not– Okay, well all I know is the cop came, you know? And mom rolled the window down because he tapped and he was– and he says “Ma'am, you cannot, cannot park here. It is illegal”. And my mother was trying– officer, I just need– I want my daughter go and get a loaf of bread. I need bread. I know it was bread. I always remember that. Yeah, and, “no got to move, got to move.” Okay. And I am sitting there very quiet because mom did not give me the money. You know, she had not given me the money and so he says no just move, move. Yeah. And my mother said turn around. She was handing me, the cop started to get his motorcycle going and the weather I cannot remember that but she turned around she still– and turns around she says “here go get the bread.” Okay. Oh no, do not get the bread and she ̶ I got to move, you know? And she is– he is definitely an eşşek, like that, you know? And I am giggling with the, the police officer turned right around the window was down. Says “Ma'am, what did you just say?” You know, and my mother says, well, I, uh, I spoke Ar– I do not know what she– I do not think she said Armenian she just said eşşek, yeah, he says there was only one person used to call me that– you are not Mrs. Mangurian, are you? Bob's wife, Bob Mangurian, you know? And my mother said well yes, oh what a wonderful guy he always called eşşek, okay and he says so he turn around he says he told me young, youngster, go get go get the bread for your mom. Okay? He says you get the bread stay–you are okay. Okay. He told my mother that he was sorry about my dad. You know, yeah and he took off. My mother turned around she was handing me the money she says, he is an eşşek. I will always remember that I love telling a story because it is so true. That she just thought, he, he was stupid in other words.

JK: He does not even know what it is, does he? That is funny, I am glad you said that. Um, so, how did–do– you do you know from your mom's side how they came to the United States?

VT: They came because of my Uncle Harry.

JK: Oh okay–

VT: He went over to get a life. And the only understanding he had to take my mother.

JK: And what about your father? Nothing?

VT: I do not know how he got here.

JK: Did you know if he had any siblings or anything?

VT: My si–oh my–his sister. My–my Uncle [inaudible] went to California. I always felt great because I had an Uncle Sam. They used to call him Sam you know.

JK: That is funny.

VT: Yeah. Yeah. And he sort of disowned me when I married the Irishman [laughs]. I just thought I would throw that in. I do not want that on that though. You just shut that off. Oh gee, you got to scratch, you can scratch some of that off. Okay. Yeah, you got to do that. [laughs]

JK: I will. Um, also, when you were– when growing up, did you– were you Americanized or more like Armenian?

VT: Oh no, no. I was, but not my brother and Harry Kradjians, they were very close do not ask Kradjians and my, my dad do not tell me how I, I have no idea– that is because they are probably Hadjinsis right? And we all lived down to a side right so we went to– it was called Little Avenue it is Horace Mann right now they are on the west side okay there by Rec Park and we because we,we lived right through the main entrance to the Rec Park so we just played in it going to school and coming back. Okay, so what had happened– this is Parsons from the Parsons funeral home look we were all the Armenians go. Yeah. My mother did not go there. My mother did not like Parsons at all. She says you are dead already but they are making you look deader, deader, deader, deader. She just– that– it is funny how nationalities were going to certain. You know my mother did like the old funeral home was better. They were across the street further down by Catholics Chapel down in that area. Okay, so Mrs. Parsons was the kindergarten teacher, Harry Kradjians and my brother did not speak English. Armenian. They always disrupted the class.

JK: They did?

VT: Yeah, they would be talking to each other and you know–so she ended up having the school call the parents. So my dad and Arthur Kradjians. Harry's father, Deron’s father, it was that same family– went to see Mrs. Parsons with the principal. And they got told that they are in this country and they have to teach the kids English. They were disrupting the class and they do not do this. You know, and they, they were– Mrs. Parsons was able to get somebody to teach them a little bit of English, okay?

JK: So they did not know any English?

VT: I think partly if they did it was very, very little but they– boys did nothing but talk Armenian all the time in class.

JK: This is your older brother?

VT: Perry’s the one that just died.

JK: Or he went away– he just– yeah he just passed away. I went to the fu–yes to the wake at Parsons. Okay? And, uh, yeah because Arthur Kradjian is their cousin’s Arthur’s father's cous–Kradjian Heigwick where Perry’s–uh, parents was Uncle Arthur and, uh, Esquir or whatever her name was, it was a funny name, okay. Alright now they worked on Highland Avenue. Okay, where Kradjians hit–

JK: Um, going back to your family life, uh, when you were younger. So were you more– do you think you were more Americanized or did you learn Armenian or–?

VT: I could never speech because I had a speech problem my brother was very good–fluent with it.

JK: Did you learn Armenian first or?

VT: I think we both did because that was all they talked about was Armenian. But I used to get mad later on after my dad died. We, we– Gary and I would get laughing because we had the one phone it was always down by the stand as we had– the upstairs, okay, by the window there. And my mother would be talking to somebody and you could understand the Ar ̶ I could understand Armenian, but I cannot speak it. My brother was both. We probably were not into it that heavy because we left. You know what I am saying? But after– not left the church but just left to social and about learning. So– and my mother never pushed on it. Later on, she did not. She was very Americanized, because her true friends were the neighbors. Oh, they were so good to my mother. You have no idea. The biggest mistake we did with my mother, start having problems health wise. And at that time we had doctors that came to the house. Dr. Nikibi lived right next to the Parsons funeral home, the original one. Okay, which was across the opposite way from where they–and my mother, uh, did the Armenian [speaks in Armenian] give me a moment. This happens to me and my doctor says it is normal. I do not think it is normal.

JK: It happens to me too do not worry.

VT: Oh, yeah, you people everybody was saying that and that should not be. Yes. Okay. But my, my brother was good because he was, he was upon the artery. He understood it more you know, I, I got so– I knew, you know, I could follow everything you know, I know what I love about the Armenian’s confessions compared– that is the only thing– the difference between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Church everything is exactly the same okay. I like Chris– maybe because our church is so small but when you have confession, he does it right there at the altar, right? He will say whoever wants to come up for communion have to come up for confession. And you have come up whoever wants– in the Armenian Church they kneel in front of the altar. And he says a prayer in Armenian right? Then he has to say I will pray for you to actually– your confession directly to God. And then you can have communion with the Catholic Church they do not do that. You go in and you talk to the priest privately in the little cubbyhole. Now sometimes when they like for Easter and everything, they twenty people– it is a muss at Easter time– they feel once a year, you know. But there were people that go every week. How can you confess on a weekly basis? I cannot remember the last time with confession. Probably before we–well you know, to get married I had to confess. What do I have to confess about? I fell in love with my future husband? But we did not live together [laughs] you know? I mean, it is stupid. I mean, you know, I do not feel I have done anything that drastically. You know. And I–and I think it is lenient, more lenient today because you see– I do not see people. It is the old timers that go to confession, I am an old timer but not– my generation was not like that.

JK: Yeah.

VT: So that is the only thing different with the Armenian Church and the, uh, Catholic Church.

JK: Did, uh, growing up, did you guys have Armenian food or any–

VT: –Oh my god definitely! I still do. That is what–

JK: Can you give any examples?

VT: That is, that is what I miss to no end. Now we used to have cooking classes at the Armenian Church. Oh, really? Yeah. And that dissolved. Well right now we were all old. Mardirossian. You know, Manish Oh my god. She's what? Ninety somewhat years old. She is, is she still driving?

JK: I have no idea.

VT: Louise keeps telling me she is still driving. I said I cannot believe that, at that old. She has got that car that does not even take, uh, gas. What does it take? It is that special type of gas. It is an old fashioned car.

JK: I have no idea.

VT: Oh god that car is probably worth money. It is an antique. [laughs] like her. She is the most sweetest–she, she knows her cooking. Yeah. Hey, I worked my fanny off at that church we used to make the Armenian baklava. The, uh, well there is a– the other one, the roll. I call all baklava–there is a different name for that. Okay. And we, we– that was our biggest fundraiser for women’s guild.

JK: Oh wow.

VT: Yeah, I, I, I know I worked my ass on that. Okay. But I used to get so mad and, uh, Dr. Garabedian, what is his name? Vahe ̶ was chairman of the Armenian Church, okay. Under– when I was person of women’s guild. Or chairperson– I do not think we called that– chairperson, okay. And he would tell me–he would always put in a big order because he will always give it to a lot of good American friends. Do you think– I used to fight this, go out and buy– go to Maine, spend ten, fifteen six–twenty bucks and get the covers, you know to put them in nicely in there. I mean these are cheap.

JK: That is funny.

VT: Uh, no, it is not funny. It is, it is disgusting. Yeah. Okay, I used to get so mad over there. My god, come on! You know? You know? So I used to– he would tell me he has said is there any way you could do, you know. I said do not worry about it, I said, I buy my own and I would take them in and do nice little you know. You know, come on, you know. I mean we, we want to try to and I, I did the same thing with me I always brought– my brother. I always, you know, you know a lot people did not want to syrup on, they liked to have it separated. You know, there's nothing wrong. Well, a little– bring a jar.

JK: Yeah, yeah.

VT: Yeah, they tell you to bring a jar in. If you want. There were little things that–but I put up with it. That I did not like, you know, I fought, I fought like crazy. I love working with Vahe because Vahe knew he needed a new refrigerator real bad. Where they feel that oh you are going to get this fix or that– well freezer or whatever and, you know, I say Vahe, cannot we do something? Can we get maybe fifty-fifty if women’s guild could come up with say if the refrigerator costs one hundred, uh five hundred, if we came up with two fifty the stu– you know the church will because basically we were always given– we always try to give every year a thousand dollars I remember that when I was treasurer. One thousand dollars church to church. So this year, we are now at maybe seven fifty or stuff like, you know, why cannot we do that? You know? It was easy to fund, they had the money. They would not spend money. You know, but now I guess they are I have not been since they put the air conditioning in there. The day in the church hall or something?

JK: Yeah and they got a new dishwasher.

VT: They got a new dishwasher?

JK: Yeah.
VT: Oh I have– my old microwave is still there. [laughs]

JK: Did you go to church um–

VT: When I was little– oh, yeah, loyally. Until we got to the age probably right after my dad died. You know, maybe a few years later.

JK: Okay.

VT: Oh, they used to have some nice family parties at church.

JK: So they– were there– were there a lot of Armenians in the community at– when you were growing up?

VT: Well we were all kids.

JK: Oh yeah.

JK: That was the generation. The older I got– you know my parents my mother was alive a lot of couples were alive, okay. And–and they would have Syracuse would come down. There, there were. Yeah. Oh, I–you know, but then when my generation started growing up, they were the ones that were leaving. Some stayed, a lot of them did not. Okay. A lot of them just left. You know, I know Harry dear on and now half the time they would come to church. They were here, but–they just broke away because– it just got away from them, you know? You know. I think he just got away from because you know darn well, uh, people just did not get along. And I came–to me I used to come home– it got to the point where women’s guild I– and I, I hit, oh, Louise used to get so mad at me she, she is a die hard, I will tell you that, that I will support Louise to this day. She loves that church and her– and her mother was really strong about teaching those kids your dad– they know a lot. Okay. And, uh, but there is your difference. Maybe my brother and I used to say that– I wonder if things would have been different if dad was alive. Because he was a strict Armenian too. But my mother lost it. You know, because not only that– they, they disowned my mother too. My brother was very bitter. He got– he picked it right up. Okay, because he ended up having to be full charge, as a man, you know, he grew up fast more so than I did. Okay. And what had happened is my brother– my– the men– my mother was a widower. They just shoved her aside. Please no, she said yeah, they do that. That is the Armenian way because there’s no man in the house. Okay?

JK: So–

VT: My mother ̶ we entertain almost every weekend there was somebody at our house because I– my job is to serve the fruit. Fruit. Fruit. And sit like a [speaks Armenian]. You know, right? Okay. Yeah.

JK: So, growing up did you guys– it was very prominent the father figure was more in charge than–

VT: Yes.

JK: –The mother.

VT: My mother never– she did not know the day when my dad died. Mom did not know where the money was coming from my dad had investments. That was what my mother looked at everybody thought we were rich. Not really, my mother was– all the years she sold the properties for– my mother never worked in her life. Okay.

JK: That is– yeah, that seems, uh, the norms for Armenian culture.

VT: Oh, really? Okay, yeah. She wore black like you will not believe, you know all that, you know.

JK: Did they– did either of them go to school or college or anything?

VT: Could not leave my mother. My brother got married real quick. You know, my sister while she was non Armenian. My mother broke into that because my cousin Alice out in Connecticut. I got really raised a lot in Connecticut, too. When I was little. Okay, because like my aunt married. If she was here, my mother used to say, her sister. That was her sister. Okay, she is– all she is good for is to have babies. She–terrible cook terrible housekeeper, but she loved having babies. [laughs] My mother used to say in her broken– you had to listen to the broken English¬– laughing over it.

JK: Did she ever– so she learned English coming over here.

VT: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, she was surrounded by–

JK: Of course, yeah.

VT: The neighborhood and they loved– my mother cooked a lot. You know, and they love– oh, they were very good to my mother. Until you know, to this day, that is all they talk– they were very good to me when I got married, my brother. Yeah. You know, very cool–and that was, that was what I was telling you and I forgot the Dr. McKibbin, living next door to the Parsons she, he was a doctor that came to the house, which you do not have that today. It is going way back. Okay because my dad died in (19)44, 1944. So, Dr. uh– my– something about Dr. McKibbin you know, I keep forgetting that again come into the house. So here we go safely, that one to tell us so it could not be that important to tell. But I thought it was and I cannot remember what this was supposed to be about.

JK: Oh, um, talking about. Now I cannot remember.

VT: Yes, when my aunt married, my aunt married, had five kids but she also had two or three she had–she had a stillborn baby that died and then two other miscarriages. So my cousin, so when she died, my father told my mother, Martha, you need to go to Connecticut. Gary needs your help. If you hit the five kids, you know, and Marty was just going into his senior year. He, he was a nice serg– in Rhode– at Providence, Rhode Island. Okay. But I mean, they were from Bridgeport, Connecticut at that time. Okay. The one boy and the three girls– four girls. Okay. So my mother used to take me up there by car and she would stay for a while then she come home. Okay. And, but then to the old Phoebe Snow train every summer. School is out for two months. Yeah, right to Connecticut. Okay, so it was actually my mother and my brother stayed home. My mother would not leave. She felt she could not get rid of the house. That was Bob's house, you know, her husband’s and that means she just was not going to give it up. She felt that was her place. And she– now if she was here today she tell you too– because later in life, she was used say I made a very bad mistake. I had opportunity to get remarried. And she felt, just told them no. Okay, and she says, I probably should– I would have made it– life a lot easier for you and your brother. And probably for me too, but she just felt at that time. No. Then she got to the point she thought she was getting too old to get married. She died young. She was only fifty-eight years old when my mother died. There was a big age difference between them too.

JK: That is interesting.

VT: Yeah.

JK: Um, growing up did you guys celebrate as a family Armenian Christmas or–

VT: We did both.

JK: Oh both okay.

VT: We would go to the Armenian Church. Yeah.

JK: And did you go to the Armenian Church when they did have service or when you could?

VT: Yeah, I did not go to a Catholic or you know, when we did not have church the Kradjians who lived on Shore Street here on the west side, right down [inaudible] Boulevard. Yeah, you know, there is the Baptist church there. [laughs] So when we–they used to go over there for parties with the Kradjians, okay, and the Rejebian– all the Hadjincis, okay? They would send us kids from church to the Baptist Church. Oh, my god if my brother was alive here today I got to ask my sister I just think she still got– he won a Bible for perfect attendance.

JK: Oh my gosh that is funny.

VT: Yeah.

JK: That is funny.

VT: My mother was very strict about going to church she wanted us to go to church real bad whether it was a–

JK: The Armenian Church?

VT: Well, both. I think she was– she I think she understood about the Armenian Church because we got to the point she probably could not say anything because well we just said no, we were not going. We always went to the social stuff. You know, they used to have nice picnics. They used to go up to the Kradjians farm up there by State Park somewhere. They were great times. You see all that just dissolved because you do not get the help or you do not get the cooperation among the people because they fight. I hate to say it, you know, that is what turn my– that was what turned me off. You know, down deep I feel very strongly, you know, like I told Louisa when she called me last year she's I paid for your dues I said I will give it to you the money no, no, no she said I did it the year before too and I said Louise, why? Then Adrian, your Aunt, called because you know they do not get along. You know that, right? Okay. You know, in those days they never took measurements.

JK: They just–

VT: No, my mother used to throw me out of the kitchen. You know? Okay. And my cousins in Connecticut when they used to come down they always called her mom too, they grew up with my, my mother took right over here, you know, when they were up there. And they would say mom wait we got to measure that [laughs] and my cousin is try to write that down the recipe. Yeah, but the cooking classes went real nice. So then all of a sudden it just dissolved. I do not know why, why. I honestly– I could not tell you why.

JK: Do you know how to cook Armenian food or something?

VT: I know how to do the pastry stuff, you know. Oh pilaf who–my–my grandkids make the pilaf. Oh, who does not love pilaf? My husband hated rice when he went–well he had it in the service. Okay. And the first time, uh, [inaudible] ‘s mother okay, made it. She–she was the cook she was good I do not if you ever knew her Mrs. Cutrone.

JK: Maybe, I am not sure.

VT: Okay, Sonic–Sominick, is that her name, Sominick?

JK: Maybe.


VT: Yeah. Okay. And well her–her brother is Hagop’s father–well Jackie's father. Was Mrs. Cutrone they were brother and sister. Okay. I am sure that–I am sure if you–you did not talk to Hagop at all?

JK: Uh, maybe Gregory did, I am not sure if I did. I do not think I did.

VT: OK, maybe I would think I– if I know Jackie is a hundred percent Armenian. Yeah. And he's good. He is a super kid, you know, I, I just feel bad that he never got married, you know, but he is still loyal to his mother. You know, and, oh, very I do not think she led a happy life either. You know, it was a hard life. Yeah. But I–I think, uh, he was a strange man. Let us put it that way. You know, but he was nice. He was always very good with my husband very nice to talk to my hu– I think because nobody else would talk to him [laughs] you know at church.

JK: Was it, um, growing up, did your parents want you to marry an Armenian or no?

VT: I, I said that if my dad was alive, I think so. Like I said, my uncle, Uncle Sam, Uncle Shahen, he passed away, okay. Out in California. When I called and told him, you know, that I, you know, it is good to get married. I think he just a minute it was– you were no longer a Mangurian. Slammed the phone down. Yeah, I got disowned. You know, I do not know him, in fact, I saw him maybe all my life maybe ten times maybe. You know, I know he came to Binghamton once, he wanted to– he was going to go to Europe to give himself a life, which he did. And I was– that was when I left the bank and I was working at links. Okay, and he wanted me to go to Europe with him. My mother told him very politely to go, be there alone. You are not going, you know. And you do not know, those days I respected my mother.
You know, I would have– I probably. I probably would have gone all expenses paid and everything. My mother just absolutely put her foot down, you know? And he came home. Yeah. My mother. Yeah. I, I think he wanted even to marry my mother after my dad died. My mother did not–could not stand him anyway. Yeah. No, she did not. You know, but I, I think things you know Gary, and I used to talk about that. Do you think things would have been different if dad was alive? And I, I think there– yeah, I do not know. I mean that was an answer that I will never know.

JK: Do you, um, yeah I guess, definitely. Do– growing– later on in life, did you raise your children more Armenian, or?

VT: My grandson wants to know more about Armenians than anything.

JK: Interesting.

VT: Oh, he did– yeah– he had to do a paper–write up about a paper about the Armenian genocide. I gave him a little. Yeah. They had the books that I had. Yeah. Yeah, he was very bright. He, he was right into it.

JK: So you did–

VT: And I just cannot get him to come here at a certain time to take him to the Armenian Church because I totally–I says if you want to hear him sing or hear him play the piano–he plays the piano really lovely.

JK: That is nice.

VT: Yes, yes. And he plays the cello.

JK: Oh, wow.

VT: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

JK: That is really nice.

VT: Yeah he– you know, I mean, that is something he is going to have for the rest of his life– you know, he–he has won a lot of honors for piano, you know. Last year when, uh, not last year but he was going into eleventh grade now, when they were moving up from middle school to high school from eighth to ninth, okay, at graduation– they did it just like a normal graduation honored, you know, the top forty kids. They had to have maintain, maintain an average of nine point eight something, okay? Yeah he is a perfect hundred. I hate to– I am bragging, I am sorry, I got the rights to do this and I am going to do it. Okay. He is’ very he is way over my head. I talked to him about my iPad. I cannot figure this out and he is talking–we are back. Grandma does not know– grandma what are you doing? I said I do not know it is just that–and he says grandma just stay put, I am going to go get my iPad we will go one by one. [laughs]

JK: That is funny.

VT: But he will talk to me about things that I do not even know what he is talking about it is way over my head and he will say grand–ok I am going oh uh huh, uh huh. He will say, you do not understand do you, grandma? He says no I do not, honey. You know, that is how– you got to tell me grandma. You know, you know? He is very, very brave.

JK: Do they know Armenian or ever– Or your children?

VT: He knows just a couple of words. But you know, I do not because I do not speak it.

JK: You do not speak it, only your brother, right?

VT: Yeah. Well, my brother passed away.

JK: Oh okay.

VT: Uncle Gary passed away. Yeah. Right. Right. I was very surprised because, basically, he ended up going to the Catholic Church. Okay. Which I cannot, you know, he did a lot for St. Cyril’s on Clinton Street, a lot, we all expected. But I was very surprised when my daughter– when my sister-in-law did the obituary, read it then she indicated to– about, you know, how proud he was to be an Armenian. And he always kept, yeah, he used to– him and, uh, the old mayor.

JK: Yeah.

VT: Okay. Well, it is a camel driver. He was a Lebanese. Okay, between him and my brother, they were trying to say, who had a better collection of camels. Because every time my brother went out and see a statue or something he– and he had history, pictures and books about Armenia, like, my brother was very engrossed in it. But he hated to go to the Armenian Church because he just felt my mother needed help after my dad died, and they just ignored her completely, you know, and that is just– and then he was told this is the Armenian way because there was no man in the house so they are not going to bother. And all the way that my mother used to feed them and do everything my dad and him that, you know, my brother took it very bitter. He was more bitter– I did not understand until later in life he's telling me this. And then– and then later in life, it did not mean crap to me anyway.

JK: Of course.

VT: You know, it did not matter.

JK: So finishing up, did– how would you describe yourself, um, like Armenian-American, American-Armenian, or–

VT: I think Armenian-America, you know, it, it is your blood. It is in there, it is in there. I could not wait–I saw that advertise on TV about that movie and I wanted to see it. And I got after Louise. Yeah, they did not know nothing about it, I kept calling Louise about it, you know and then she was calling, you know, everybody else in her family and they did not know, you know, that Aslan–and then she finally had Aslan call to see– you did go see– I said yes, Aslan go, it is worth the money. I said I wanted to go because I– as much as I knew about yeah, the walk, yeah we can read about it, but I guess I just thought maybe I get something more out of the movie. You know, and I felt– it, it got to me. Couple scenes there, it really got to me.

JK: I am sure.

VT: You know, you know, but, uh, but they had something on TV. I wanted the news channels. Okay. Yeah.

JK: Yesterday was the, uh–

VT: The, uh, the anniversary. Yeah, the twenty-fourth. Right. And whoever the reporter was, it was nat–national news, came out how is– this movie has brought it out.

JK: The Promise, yeah the movie.

VT: The mo– yeah, but they also said it was not that thorough to explain. It was more like a love story but it gave us a jiff of it. But it was not rated high, it was only two stars that is that much.

JK: Yeah. Apparently, some of the people against the movie rated it low– this is a controversial thing.

VT: It is a c–well, oh well, yeah. Well that is what– I think that is what bothered me after I saw the movie. Is this going to be an uproar? Is there going to be a lot of protesting on it because there is got to be a lot of Turks around here. Right. Now, see, now that is what I was brought up to. Do not hate a [indistinct]– at school. Fooling around, talking and everything but when she wanted– they wanted to get married. They got married in the Armenian Church. Her mo– his mother and father stood outside the door. They never walked into the church to see them get married. They heard it. They never saw them actually get married.

JK: That is crazy.

VT: Right hand to God, I am not making that up. When I saw that I thought well that is icing on the cake. My mother saw that I think that made her, you know, well because, because well Alice got married in Connecticut. Yeah. They you know, they got married in a Catholic church but the wedding reception was at the Armenian Church in Connecticut in Bridgeport. Okay? And my cousin Joe was a dear oh, he was–you know, he just won my mother over. Okay. And I think my mother really, at that point, she was so Americanized. You know she never wanted to go back to Europe my brother truck– tried to talk. We were going to go take a trip to, you know, he thought mom would like to go back. Had no decided this is my country. She used to say. She I, I think she just did not want to go see it. Yeah, she, you know, I do not know. She never would– never said. The only time I got anything out of her is when I went to wash her back. And I saw that. And she did not really get teary eyed. She just said it and that was the end of it, you know?

JK: That is interesting. That is very interesting. Thank you. Uh, was there anything else you would like to add that I–

VT: Not I talked too much. I do not know. I do not know if you needed facts and figures like, you know, I do not know. I do not care whether you use it or not, to be honest with you.

JK: All right, well thank you.

VT: I– oh– I like to hear what Louise had to say.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Jacqueline Kachadourian


Virginia Terell

Biographical Text

Virginia was born in Binghamton to first-generation Armenian parents who came to the United States to escape the genocide. As a child, she was involved in the local Armenian community and continued to do so as she reached adulthood. Later on, she became an active member of the Women's Guild at her Church.





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Binghamton University

Interview Format


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This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as Armenian Oral History Project, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries for more information.


Binghamton; Armenia; genocide; Greel; Chruch; traditions; community; war; generation; Women's Guild; food


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About this Collection

Collection Description

This collection includes interviews in English with informants of all ages and a variety of backgrounds from various parts of Armenia. The interviews provide deeper insight into the history of the Armenian culture through personal accounts, narratives, testimonies, and memories of their early lives in their adoptive country and… More

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“Interview with Virginia Terrell,” Digital Collections, accessed December 5, 2023,